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R.T. Vanderbilt has reorganized

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R.T. Vanderbilt has reorganized how it does business but the restructuring will not have an effect on its wollastonite operations in Harrisville and Balmat.

“You’re not going to see a lot of difference immediately,” said Roger K. Price, president and chief operating officer of R.T. Vanderbilt Holding Co.. Norwalk, Conn., the new parent company for all of its wholly owned subsidiaries, including Vanderbilt Minerals, the business arm that will include its industrial and specialty minerals.

The other new operating entities are Vanderbilt Chemicals and Vanderbilt Global Services. Existing companies that will fall under the holding company are Vanderbilt International SARL, and Vanderbilt (Beijing) Trading.

The change will allow each subsidiary to focus on its own needs and position itself more for market growth, Mr. Bennett said.

The Gouverneur operation — which includes a wollastonite mine in Harrisville and a processor in Balmat — has become one of four locations of Vanderbilt Minerals.

Staffing will remain the same at seven salaried and 19 hourly employees, Mr. Bennett said.

Vanderbilt maintained separate companies until 2007, when it combined its divisions to make better use of a companywide software program.

“Now, we’re going back to the way we were,” Mr. Bennett said.

The separation has nothing to do with recent talc-related lawsuits brought against Vanderbilt, Mr. Bennett said.

The company mined talc at Balmat from 1948 until 2008.

It continues to fight claims that the fibers have the same effect as asbestos, causing fatal illnesses in some people who were exposed to it.

In 2012, a Delaware jury awarded a $2.86 million verdict to the family of a man who died from mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. Michael Galliher worked at a plumbing fixtures factory for nearly 40 years, using a talc powder from Gouverneur to dust molds of ceramic fixtures.

Also in 2012, a New Jersey jury ruled in favor of Vanderbilt in the case of a paint tester and cosmetics purchaser who was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

In 2009, Vanderbilt lost an appeal in Kentucky of a $4 million judgement for the death of a woman by mesothelioma caused by her exposure to asbestos while employed at a tile company.

In 2006, a New Jersey jury designated more than $3 million in damages for the death of a potter from mesothelioma in what was considered the first U.S. court award dealing with asbestos in industrial talc.

Wollastonite — which is used in ceramics, paint, and plastics — is considered a safe substitute for asbestos fibers by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Vanderbilt is continuing to clean up the talc operation, Mr. Bennett said.

The number one mine was closed and released by the state as reclaimed. A second mine may be released by the state in the spring, he said.

“We’ve closed all known mine shafts so nobody can be walking in the woods and fall into an old mine shaft,” Mr. Bennett said. “The old mine building on Route 812 was razed and grass is growing there.”

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